Chapter 5 – The Reckoning

Walking back towards the curiosity shop Ron couldn't help but notice that inside the grandeur of the Ministry the store lost the dusty mystique evident on the sunlit streets of London. Instead, it looked like a tired, grey hovel patiently awaiting the wrecking ball.

Time forgot about it, he thought sadly, reaching for the door handle. Beneath his light touch, the entire building dissolved into a tornado of dust and ash, rushing rapidly in a shower of sparks. At the epicenter, Ron could see the outline of the phone booth so familiar to him.

A wizened guard laughed, sounding like gravel was jammed down his throat. "Get kicked out of the Lottery?"

"I chose to leave," Hermione said indignantly, though the conviction in her voice was shaky.

"That's funny, little miss. Your cute friend looks guilty enough for the lot of you," he leered at Ron, giving him an over exaggerated wink. "You can't fool me, see this every year. You know what happens to those girls, they all turn out to be big heteros. Ironic, huh?" Chuckling, he shuffled away to his post leaving a much-violated Ron and harassed Hermione behind.

"I'll show you a big scary hetero," Hermione responded darkly, grabbing Ron by the neck of his shirt and pulling his lips against hers. The old guard's eye widened as he choked on his laughter.

"Hermione," Ron sputtered, pushing himself away, "Don't be gross."

The guard laughed even harder this time, his old dry chuckle grating on Hermione's pride. "What a poor freak, can't even get the cute lad to like her."

In a tiff, she dragged Ron into the phone booth and shouted at it to go topside. As they slowly ascended through the layers of terrain and concrete, Hermione screamed at Ron.

"How dare you embarrass me like that? Not only did you keep conveniently quiet through the Lottery you rejected me in front of that guard. Did that kiss in the street mean so little to you?"

"It meant a lot to me," Ron snapped, taking the young woman off guard. "But it doesn't mean that I'm willing to thrust myself out into the world as a heterosexual. I don't even know if I'm straight, I know I like you a lot, but I love Harry a lot too and I don't want to leave him like this."

Coward, you don't give a fuck about Harry and you lost the right to use him as an excuse the moment your cock slipped into McClaggen's ass.

Hermione didn't get a chance to retort as the phone booth grinded through the final layer of cement, sunlight flooding its interior. They stumbled out, not looking at each other.

"I don't feel like waiting for everyone else, it could be hours before they surface," Hermione finally said in a terse manner, pulling out her wand. Holding it straight into the air, she stepped back against a shop wall as the Knight Bus tore into the small lot, nearly missing Ron who was still standing in the center of everything looking thoroughly annoyed.

They both boarded shelling out the fee, Hermione disappearing to the top level while Ron took a seat right behind the driver's seat, bracing himself as the bus thinned out and merged with London traffic, weaving in between the muggle automotives.

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Hermione reappeared, as Hogwarts grew larger on the horizon, the silhouette of the turrets contrasting against the bright spring morning. Having napped for the majority of the trip, she was furiously rubbing the sleep from her eyes, falling into the seat beside the door. Ron watched her lovingly in the moments when it took her eyes to refocus to the light, blinking violently she looked up and Ron's gaze quickly changed into one of annoyance.

Sleeping had calmed her nerves. However, Ron had sat up in dangerous silence, trounced about for an hour, letting all his anger stew.

"I'm glad you could sleep after the stunt you pulled back there," he hissed venomously, bouncing up into the air as the bus hit a bump in the road.

Sighing, Hermione held tight onto the arms of her chair, eyes lowering in disappoint. "I didn't mean to drag you into this, Ron. But if we are going to have any kind of relationship in the future you have to be able to handle me and all my little quirks."

"Quirks?" Ron laughed. "You made a fool out of both of us in front of our classmates, the Ministry, and a whole bunch of other wizards on top of it. Maybe you can handle the fact that you will always be looked at as 'the girl who got kicked out of the Lottery,' but I prefer to not have that hanging over my head."

"You make up a lot of bullshit, Ron. I don't think I've once heard you say anything about what you were genuinely feeling, just random rants about how I've screwed everything up."

The bus came to a sudden stop.

"I don't feel anything, Hermione. There is too much going on inside me to sort the emotions out.

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Harry was lounging on his bed when Ron swept into the dormitory, quickly ripping off all his clothes. He stood at the center of the room, the sunlight illuminating his white skin until it shone like the moon.

"Am I beautiful?" he asked, tears welling up in his eyes.

"You're gorgeous," Harry responded silkily, shutting his textbook and smiling up at Ron's body, in a similar awe to that of the day they first made love.

"Will you love me forever?" Harry whispered.

"Even longer that that."

"Stop staring at me with your cock!" Ron shouted, shaking his red hair violently, catching is afire in the light of the day. "When you look at me, really look at me, who do you see?"

Sitting up, Harry felt his face crease with a frown. The hard-on that had been growing in his trousers quickly wilted. "I see a… a…" The words that were perfect in his head were having difficulty enunciating themselves properly.

He saw his everything, the man he wanted to be with for the rest of his life. When he saw Ron, it felt like nothing had existed before that moment.

"Because when I look at myself in the mirror all I see is a pale, skinny asshole. I'm devoid of life, Harry. I don't exist within myself; it's only when I look at someone else's faults that I see me."

Pausing for a second, Harry realized that most of what Ron just said went right over his head. He got up from the bed, taking a step toward his lover.

"Don't touch me," Ron muttered, backing up and tripping over one of the shoes he had laid strewn on the floor.

Sprawled on the floor, red hair cascading over his face, Ron sobbed uncontrollably, wiping his eyes furiously with the back of his hands. His positioning was awkward, legs spread out, the hard wood floor cold against his ass.

Harry stood there, unsure of what to do or what was going on. His boyfriend had emotionally disintegrated before his eyes, when this morning they had woken up to the wonderful spring morning, exchanged love-filled kisses and told each other this was forever, as they always did.

It didn't seem like forever now, Harry almost felt the mortality of their relationship closing in on him.

"Ron, what happened at the Lottery?" A very banal question, but Harry true to human from quickly reverted to being shallow as soon as something threatened his way of life; best no to think of such things, out of sight out of mind.

Choking on his sorrow, Ron stared up at Harry with bloodshot eyes and couldn't believe that he had ever wanted to cheat on this man. They were perfect together, no drama, no unnecessary fighting, there was nothing kinetic about their chemistry, but it was safe and comfortable.

When Ron closed shot his eyes, the last few tears squeezing out between the lids, he visualized Hermione and Harry standing in front of him, both in tawdry garb. Focusing on Hermione, he fought the desire that rushed through his body and whispered a mantra, banishing her from his thoughts. Slowly, she faded into nothing, leaving Harry there, smiling brilliantly, but with one eye cast over his shoulder, watching behind him.

A darkness was making it's way towards them, and as it reached the brink of the dormitory Harry smiled at Ron, whispered, "I love you," and turned to face the encroaching evil, letting himself be consumed. Ron sat their alone, and he knew the choice he had to make. If he chose Hermione, Harry would face Voldemort with nothing to come back to. While he wasn't in love with him, he did love him, and it would hurt Ron if Harry purposefully allowed himself to die because he no longer had his love.

So, with much guilt, Ron opened his eyes, wiped away the remnants of sadness from his freckled cheeks, and smiled weakly at Harry, while Hermione kicked violently at the walls of his heart, trying to get in.

"Sorry, about that," he chuckled, "I'm just tired and Hermione caused a scene at the Ministry, getting us both kicked out. It was kind of embarrassing and I guess I just let it overwhelm me."

It didn't taste right to Harry's ear, but it was exactly what he wanted to hear and believe. As Ron stood up, Harry rushed over to him and kissed him desperately on the lips, wrapping his arms around Ron's silky back.

For several minutes, they kissed and when it ended both of them knew it was over, but Harry didn't want to believe it, and Ron chose to ignore it. All the love, passion, and fire were gone from their relationship. Now it felt sanitary.

Now it was about responsibility.

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For a second Hermione considered following Ron in case he hurt himself, but she knew he would flee to Harry, who would protect his lover, no matter what.

Sauntering through the halls of Hogwarts, Hermione wished that she felt some sort of guilt for any of her actions. From kissing Ron to protesting the Lottery, all of it was justified in her mind. She hated it. She had used Ron, disrespected Harry's friendship, and would do it all again in a heartbeat.

She did it all for the sake of revolution. So that the girl in the alley wouldn't have to hide anymore, so that when Ron finally found his soul mate he could love her openly.

Hermione pulled a small vial from her pocket, wishing she could just smash it against the wall. It wouldn't help, of course. In Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, there was a whole simmering cauldron of love potion, weakened so that Hermione wouldn't entirely lose her mind when she drank it.

Infused with it were three strands of Ron's hair, her secret weapon, her queen in this oversized game of chess.

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